Defining ‘the value of email’ from both a marketer’s and a recipient’s perspective means being able to provide a unique customer experience in every message. 

Some of the responses to my last blog post are spot on: I particularly agree with the comment that customer experience is most important before or after a purchase is made, and another that said we should find out what customers want before launching a product.

Exactly the same is true of email marketing, and that’s the first channel that I want to explore in our multichannel customer journey.

How can we make sure that emails are relevant and personalised? 

How can we make sure that messaging is relevant and personalised for recipients, in both prospect and retention communication? Well, that’s inextricably linked to defining ‘the value of email’ from both a marketer’s and a recipient’s perspective, which comes back to providing a unique customer experience in every message.

We can talk all we want about what we think constitutes a great experience, but there’s no point spending our hard-earned money constructing one if we don’t identify the right consumers to engage with or create the right messaging.

I’m thinking specifically of the customer adage, ‘If you say you know me, then talk to me like you do!’ I believe too many marketing departments and agencies are guilty of sitting behind a screen and treating email as a pure broadcasting mechanism, using a completely scattergun approach.  

According to the Email Experience Council, ’Fewer than 50% of marketers create emails that render appropriately’. In other words, less than half are readable on screen. This type of activity is rapidly beginning to create a barrier between brand and consumer, when email should be valued just as highly as face-to-face, in-store communication.

According to a recent research on email marketing in Europe, almost half (44%) of UK marketers are likely to increase email budgets in 2011. Furthermore, Econsultancy’s UK Email Marketing Statistics guide states the value of email marketing in 2010 was £336m, up from £292m (15%) on 2009.

Yes, we know more money is being committed, but how much is being wasted? As Lord Leverhulme supposedly said: “I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted, but I’m not sure which half.”

Understanding and using data

Email’s scope for reaching individuals as part of a vast audience in a relatively cheap, targeted and ultimately measureable way makes the channel more valuable than it’s often given credit for. The problem is, while email platforms are providing us with great interaction insights, we rarely spend time truly understanding them.

Additionally, we’re just not often enough joining up the metrics gifted to us from other technologies such as web tracking metrics and purchase habits. We should analyse the statistics, find out what works and what doesn’t, and use that attribution to shape future campaigns.

Even quick wins such as marking up transactional emails in HTML to provide better branding, cross-sell and tracking capabilities are being overlooked as companies continue to use plain text legacy systems.

Did you know that transactional emails have an average open rate of 45% or higher? Time and again, independent surveys show people ‘very often or always read’ a transactional email; this is double a standard promotional email, so why are marketers missing a great opportunity to enrich the customer experience as well as up- and cross-sell products and services?

It’s all about seizing the chance to target recognised customers how and when it suits them. To me, that’s as crucial for increasing basket value as, say, posters or TV ads. Because it provides rich data, email can be tailored for more direct and less spray and pray marketing.

You can use deep insights to drive campaigns, segment the market into your best bets and target them according to information on previous transactions, optimum times for sending messages, and even preferred copy and colour tones. Messages become more timely, personal and relevant.

There’s a lot of talk about closing the loop, but it’s still left wide open in many email campaigns. If people have been willing to give you their data, you should use it in a way that adds value for them.

Several weeks after signing up in a major high-street store to receive email information and offers I’m yet to hear anything. They’ve engaged me, have my precious personal details, and I’ve got nothing to show for it. I even gave them my mobile number!

I know I haven’t even touched on the niceties of email marketing, such as how to boost open rates and click-throughs by tinkering with customers’ copy and image preferences.

But the bigger picture is about using the deep email insights and analytics that are available to decide the best way of creating targeted messages that will add to the customer experience across multiple touchpoints.

Marketers still fall into the trap of thinking email is cheap, without realising how much can be gained from spending a bit more on doing the analytics. Value your customer and you’ll boost the value of campaigns, and ultimately increase the value of your business.